A lot of times I’m a hard ass.
When it comes to heroism, I take a strict definition: a hero is someone who takes significant risk to help others without a personal stake in it. You have to meet all parts of that sentence to be a hero in my eyes.
I have good company. Ari Kohen says he’s a heroic hardliner. Sports players and celebrities aren’t heroes for him. Matt Langdon joins him, arguing that not every soldier is a hero. Like them, I want to reserve the term “hero” for people who do the truly extraordinary.
So when we started talking about everyday adventure I took the same approach. That may be a mistake.
Heroism can have a universal, be-this-tall-to-ride definition, because no one can declare themselves a hero. Hero is a title bestowed by others. That requires some kind of agreed-upon definition.
Adventure is different.
You can decide what adventure means. So can I. You can’t call yourself a hero, but you can call yourself an adventurer. Try it, it feels pretty good. My business card says I’m an adventurer. No one laughs.
You are the decider of what is an adventure—for you. You are the one who knows your personal limits and bounds, so you know if you’re pushing them.
I have to thank readers for helping me understand this. You guys patiently explained the travails that became adventures in your own lives, and created a clear sense of how one adventures without leaving the house.
This leaves a loose end.
Does adventure require physical risk?
It’s tempting to say it does. Big or small, the things we usually call “adventures” involve some level of danger.
If physical risk is essential, adventure becomes the flip side of heroism. Heroism is taking risk for others, adventure is taking risk for your own sake (for the thrill, for the edification, for the experience).
This still leaves a pretty large canopy. The person who’s afraid of dogs and takes one for a walk faces physical risk. The person who has a disability and enters a marathon faces physical risk.
But the “risk clause” would exclude some activities. Under that definition, learning guitar may be an important personal challenge but it’s not an adventure. “Adventure” becomes reserved for things that could be dangerous, on any scale.
Is that a good addition to understanding adventure, or is it too limiting? Is physical risk an essential part of what makes adventure adventurous?